Some nurses 'not suited to the role', study suggests

Researchers say 'compassion deficit' may play a role in crises such as Mid Staffs, along with work pressures

Some nurses may lack the compassion needed to perform their roles, according to a study into the reasons behind care crises such as that at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

Nurse researchers from institutions including the University of Edinburgh and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said there is much to celebrate about the work of nurses, but acknowledged the need to 'face up to the reality that poor care and associated problems with professionalism do exist’.

They outlined the findings from various studies about the role nurses may have in care failings. One argument they examined is that in some cases, nurses have either not failed to perform or have only occasionally when under significant stress, but that they have simply not had the personal qualities to be a nurse.

Another is that nurses may become so concerned with managing day-to-day demands that ‘they are no longer able to see the real purpose of their role – the provision of care and the alleviation of suffering’. 

An alternative theory is that nurses do see poor care, but if they are under too much pressure to be able to address it, they will ‘revise down' their beliefs about what constitutes good or acceptable care, so they can deal with the disparity between their ideal and their actual experiences at work.

A further argument is that while some poor care may be because of uncaring attitudes, nurses at Mid Staffs were simply too busy with tasks to notice patient suffering.

The researchers urged nurses to consider the questions raised, and said their purpose was 'not to attribute blame’ but to help nurses understand the debate. The study includes prompts for reflection and discussion.

Read the study, published in Nurse Education Today, here



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